Deena Kastor wasn’t sure she would ever come back.
She wasn’t even sure she would want to.
A three-time Olympian and 2004 silver medalist in the marathon, Kastor was 35 when she broke her foot – it sounded like “a Popsicle stick breaking and feathering” – while running the 2008 Olympic marathon in Beijing. She had barely gotten healthy again and started competing when she discovered she was going to have her first child. Excruciating side stitches kept her from running even a step for 5 ½ months before Piper was born in February 2011.
“When I was pregnant I thought that if I’m taking all these months off and I’m 38 years old, is it possible for me to get that fitness back at this age? I didn’t know,” she told a media roundtable on Thursday. “I also kept open the door that motherhood might change my perspective and running wouldn’t be as important to me.”
She discovered that it was, but the road back was slow. Very slow, starting with runs at a pace of over 10 minutes a mile. Her re-entry into racing, at the NYRR New York Mini 10K in June, wasn’t pretty: she finished 25th, in 35:00. If she was going to be ready for the Trials, she had some work ahead of her.
And for months, it was indeed work. Then, during what she called a “spectacular” 26-mile run in early December, the old – or perhaps young – Deena returned, adrenaline surging and energy left over at the end.
“For so long this buildup was really calculated and slow because we didn’t have time for injuries or any setbacks with the Trials approaching so quickly, so we were very conservative,” she explained. “And just in the past couple of months I felt more flow in my running. It was just this nice flow in the faster paces, which I hadn’t felt in a very long time, even before my pregnancy. So I felt really good about how my body was responding to upping the ante in practices. I really felt my body evolve.”
Her goals evolved with it.
“A few months ago I was really just hoping to be in the mix to make this team,” she said. “And as my training evolved and really launched these last couple of months it gave me more confidence to be in the front of the pack, and instead of striving to make the team I now feel very confident that I can make the team but
“It’s been a strange and unconventional four years, but the Olympics are here again and I’m going to be fighting like mad on Saturday to make my fourth Olympic team so I can try to get on that podium again.”
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